Friday, October 5, 2007

The Occasional Rant

Every news outlet is carrying the story: Prince William and his off-again, now on-again girlfriend, Kate Middleton, being chased by paparazzi just as the inquest into Princess Diana's death gets underway. A death that may be blamed in part on the relentless pursuit of the former royal by the paparazzi. But who is really to blame?

Skimming the headlines today I had to ask myself this question: Does the story make the news or does the news make the story? That is, are we reading the news or are we reading what the news media thinks we want to read?

As we hover our mouses over the page, scrolling past the stories of monks in peaceful protest being beated, tortured and killed and instead click on the video of Wills and Kate slipping into a black vehicle that will whisk them away into the night, who is deciding what is important? Make no mistake, the news media is a business and as such relies on advertising dollars - dollars that are commensurate with the audience that the page they are displayed on will bring in. That audience isn't some vast, nameless mass. It's you. It's me.

We bemoan the lack of good television and yet, they are only producing what they know we will watch. Our appetite for electronic voyeurism is never sated, so we have multiple Survivor-type series and Big Brother, talent shows and "real video", as well as endless spotlights on vapid celebrities of the entertainment world. It is the same on the internet. If we are really sick of hearing about Britney Spears, there is one solution. Don't click on that story about Spears just because they lure you in with headlines like "Brit's New Stripper Video". Vote with your click on the net, just as you vote via remote on your television.

Women complain that the media and the fashion industry serve up images of stick-thin models and air-brushed photos, presenting an ideal that the average woman can never attain. But we can't blame the media for these images, if we didn't want to see them then we would stop buying the magazines, watching the shows, reading the tabloids. Why is it that we never understand who is truly in power?

I keep writing about Dove, and their Real Women, Real Beauty campaign but I can't say enough good things about it. If you are fed up and sick of being compared to images of 12-year-old fashion models, then buy Dove products and support the campaign to use real women as role models for beauty and intelligence. Don't we believe that an intelligent woman can also be beautiful?

It isn't difficult to gather support for causes like global warming - people will quickly pledge to recycle their used paper napkins or some other equally ridiculous but symbolic gesture. Why can't we agree to improve the taste, intelligence, savvy and quality of our future society? Saving the earth will be of little use if our future belongs to a generation whose role-models are the cretins who appear on our TV screens and magazine covers.

We can do it. We can turn off "Dancing With the Stars" and watch PBS or the Discovery channel. We can walk past the tabloids on the newsstands and buy a copy of National Geographic. We can teach our children that character and integrity is more important than the opportune displaying of body parts - the recent hoopla over Vanessa Hudgens and the nude photos that she probably released herself just to increase her fame are a wonderful example of how not to behave. If we can take the right lessons to our children, can't we counteract the effects of the most superficial society in history?

I like to think we can.

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